Many people see the whole “debt free” journey as a lot of sacrifice. It is, but the benefits outweigh the sacrifices. For me, at least. Living debt free puts me in the driver’s seat of my own life. It’s sad to see people who have to work in a job they hate because they can’t afford to take a cut in pay. At what point do all of those nice, shiny things own you, not the other way around? The most empowering feeling I have ever felt was paying for our third and current house in cash. There were no jokes at closing about “signing your life away” or “getting a cramp in your hand” from the stacks of documents to sign. All the years of not paying interest on credit cards, making my own birthday piñatas, using coupons, wearing yard sale clothes, refinishing old furniture, paying on the principal of my mortgage, waiting for things to go on sale, going without, making it myself, and everything else I’ve ever done to save a penny, it all got me to that point in my life. I wasn’t signing my life away, I was taking it back.
Yes, I have been blessed. My parents helped with many of our home improvement projects. Free labor definitely contributes a lot. My husband also made an above average salary for almost 10 years. It was a high stress job that I knew wouldn’t be a lifelong career. What we didn’t do during those years was increase our lifestyle. I paid double mortgage payments and bonuses went toward paying down our mortgage. 2013 was the last year I made a mortgage payment. Don’t get me wrong, my husband had a few snowmobiles and a couple of Harleys in that time, but we were living way below our means.
We could have gone on more trips, I could own a lot more jewelry, and have closet full of expensive clothes. I’d rather have to freedom and security to choose to live life on my terms. Money is a tool, necessary for daily life. How much you need to survive is up to you. Some people make it very hard on themselves, they spend too much on things that don’t matter and have very little left for the things that do, like an emergency savings account, retirement, insurance. Those aren’t fun. No one gets excited about putting $500 a month into a savings account or paying double mortgage payments, but the payoff is security and freedom. I preach this so much because I live it and know it works.
It’s about finding a balance between what you think you want and what you really want. You can’t completely deprive yourself, but you do need to make choices for the greater good. I get a lot of satisfaction from waking up every morning and knowing that the house I’m living in belongs to me and everything around me is paid for. There are things I want that will wait, but nothing I need is out of reach.
You empower yourself by doing and continuing to make new goals. What are you doing to empower yourself? What goals are you working toward?